SIM Game of the Year (Posted Dec 17, 2004)

2004 Sim Game of the Year

2004 was a great year for Indie Sim games.  Just for comparisons, in 2003 we combined the Strategy, Sim, RPG, and Sports Categories into a single "other category."  This we have broken most of those categories out into their own categories (the rest will show up in the special awards category).  Sim was especially strong itself, showing that Indie Sim games can match up to and in many cases beat the many mainstream Sim games available.  (and notably missing from this list is the renown Kisses, which unfortunately has higher system requirements than most people can meet, but if you can play it, check it out :)

5th Place - Starport Command

Developer: 89 Games Players: 1
Release: August 2004  
System Requirements: 1000 MHz CPU, Windows 98/ME/2000/XP, 128Mb RAM

For whatever reason, this year has been the year of the Space Station Sim. Ok, perhaps not really, but with the release of Starport Command, there have been 3 different Space Station building games released this year. Each of them has been fairly different, with the pure comedy of Outpost Kaloki, the very mentally challenging Space Station Manager, and now joining them is Starport Command which offers a piece of the mental challenge in building, and adds preparing your station for battle.

Starport Command offers a different style of game playing than most are used to, creating a combo sim/action game that provides an interesting twist to your typical sim game. When a battle is raging and you're desperately hoping your station will pull through, it is really quite fun to play. For those looking for a different spin on building a space station than just the strict building, Starport Command is a game you should check out.

Our Review:
"After I got into it a little deeper and was destroyed by the first alien attack that came my way I started to dig a little deeper and I liked what I found."

4th Place - Aerial Antics

Developer: Leadfoot Productions Players: 1
Release: January 2004  
System Requirements: Win95/98/ME/2K/XP, 400 Mhz CPU, Direct3D 7+, 16 MB 3D Video, 64 MB RAM

As a spiritual successor to a portion of the Pilotwings game, Aerial Antics provides players the opportunity to fly around interesting and quite varied landscapes with a jet pack.  The game provides the challenge of hoops to fly through, pads to land on, not to mention the giant balls that you have to kick through rings on specific levels and the joy of having bombs to drop.  While working on making pinpoint landings you also have to keep a careful look at your fuel as running out leads to the not-so-pleasant scenarios of your character dropping to the ground. 

The real highlight here is the cartoon-y graphics, which are well above average and make good use of Garage Games Torque engine.  The only difficulties I ran into with the game come when you try to play with anything other than an analog stick.  However the controls offer a wide variety of options that should make this game accessible to just about anyone.

Our Review:
"For those who loved Pilotwings, and for those who never got a chance to play it, I highly recommend checking out Aerial Antics!"

3rd Place - President Forever: 2004

Developer: HotPot Software / 80 Dimensional Players: 1-4 (vs)
Release: April 2004  
System Requirements: Windows 95/98/ME/2000/XP

With 2004 being an election year we got a big grouping of inevitable Presidential campaigning simulation games, but one game was way above the pack.  In fact, even though we are past the election there is still plenty of fun in this game as it includes past races (Nixon vs Kennedy anyone?).  One of the truly great features of this game is its multiplayer abilities that will let you hook up with four of your friendly political aficionados to try and out campaign them.  The multiplayer portion of this game is good enough to give any Mario Party game a run for its money.

In PF: 2004, you determine your line of attack, research topics, deliver speeches and choose the states that you are going to focus you, and not to mention who your vice president will be. There is a plethora of options available to you, but you must remember to keep things under control. Spend your energy or your budget too soon and you will find yourself limping towards the finish line.  Between the easy to pick-up, well-designed game play and the very solid player involvement in this game, not to mention the chance to campaign against your wife or friends, it's not hard to see why we heartily endorse this game! 

Our Review:
"It always amazes me how games can take something that might seem like a difficult concept to turn into a game and make it shine."

2nd Place - Smugglers 3

Developer: Niels Bauer Games Players: 1
Release: January 2004  
System Requirements: Windows 98/ME/2000/XP

Smugglers 3 scores big points for providing such a rich storyline despite a few grammar problems that show up in the text.  The story draws you in with constant updates as to where your faction lies in regards to the conflict and encounters with other star vessels that help make you feel as though you really are engaged in the conflict.  The game also offers amazing depth and development as you continue on, hiring crew and accepting ever more perilous and complicated missions throughout multiple star systems.

The graphics in the game are done quite well and do a wonderful job of keeping you interested in the systems, weapons, and peoples in the game, though they are not the newest 3D graphics available.  Each of the characters and screens is very well-rendered, and I think most people will be pleasantly surprised at how well the game looks as the screenshots don't really show it off very well.  Smugglers 3 is a game that delivers a high-quality gaming experience that is well worth the money spent on picking up a copy for yourself.

Our Preview:
"Those who enjoy space simulations along the lines of Master of Orion or Starlines INC. should give Smugglers 3 a try."

2004 Sim Game of the Year - Outpost Kaloki

Developer: Ninja Bee Players: 1
Release: September 2004  
System Requirements: Windows 98/ME/2000/XP, 450 MHz CPU, 8MB Video Card

In Outpost Kaloki you play the role of a space station manager - but don’t worry, this is not some dry technical simulation. The gameplay here is easy to pick up and always has a fun, upbeat vibe thanks to the great graphics and soundtrack. From the moment I first booted it up I knew this wasn’t going to be like the other management games out there.

Each time you are assigned a new build project you are also given specific construction and/or business goals to be met. The gameplay takes place in a colorful real-time 3D environment that allows you to rotate your view to any angle around the station. Visiting ships continuously arrive and depart through warp gates and it’s up to you to serve their needs by building expansions that offer information and services.

The graphics in Outpost Kaloki are top notch and oozing with character - like a classic Saturday morning cartoon brought to life in 3D. I half expected to see Bud Lightyear streak across the screen as the highly polished and consistent graphical quality of this game almost makes it look a Pixar license.

Given the fantastic visual quality one would expect that, like so many games, the audio would suffer from lack of attention. Surprisingly, this is not the case as the music in Outpost Kaloki is just as appealing and quirky as the graphics. The soundtrack consists of fun, swinging tracks reminiscent of classic big bands and goes perfectly with the games visual style.

With such a dirge of horrible management games out there it’s great to see a developer like Ninja Bee outclass all the competitors (both indie and mainstream) with quirky gameplay and amazing production values. If you’ve been avoiding management sims because “they all suck!” then do yourself a favor and give Outpost Kaloki a try.

Our Review:
"The clean interface and graphical styling in Outpost Kaloki absolutely puts to shame every other “tycoon” style game I’ve seen this year."

This article comes from Game Tunnel

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